“You will be downstairs putting your shoes on by the time I count to ten! One! Two!” If we didn’t get everyone in the car soon, we were going to be late. “Three! Four!” Giggles floated down the stairs. “Five! Six!” They were both supposed to be brushing their teeth. “Seven! Eight!” Silence. Silence with a three year old and a two year old in the house is rarely a good sign. I climb the stairs, “Nine!” At the top of the stairs, I pause; the door to the bathroom is closed. Again, not a good sign. “Ten!” I open the door and walk into what looks like a winter wonderland. My confusion lasts only a moment as a familiar scent reaches my nose. Baby powder. My precious younger two had climbed onto the bathroom counter, retrieved the baby powder from the top shelf, and proceeded to make it “snow” in the bathroom. Their delight was evident as I watched my daughter make it snow on top of her brother’s head. I however, was not amused and could feel my emotions surging towards the boiling point. I was about ready to explode.
Our emotions . . . a gift from our Creator that gives us the ability to experience this life to its absolute fullest. But, far too often, we allow our emotions to control our responses. We take in what is happening around us and react by either exploding or stuffing. When we explode, we’re being honest with how we are feeling, but more often than not, we lack godliness in our words and in our actions. When we stuff, our words and actions may very well come across as peaceful, but we aren’t being honest with our feelings.
Our goal in all of this is to move towards soul integrity. Soul integrity is honest, wise, and it requires a shift. A shift away from how the world tells us to think, to speak, to act. It’s placing every thought under the authority of Jesus Christ and learning how to process our circumstances through His eyes. I’ll admit . . . that morning in the bathroom . . . I made no effort to see my circumstances through His eyes. That morning, I allowed my emotions to control how I responded to my kids. That morning, I exploded.
Exploders. They are the people who can’t keep their emotions in and push them outwardly either loudly or very quietly. Exploders use a raised voice, stern words, harsh looks, or explosive actions to express their negative emotions. Once the emotion is out, exploders often feel deep regret, and this deep regret is directed in one of two ways.
First, an exploder can blame herself for the outburst. She sees how she has hurt others, blames herself for the explosion, and then places a label on herself. For example: a mom yells at her kids and says things she does not mean. Later, she tells herself that she is a bad mom who yells too much. Another example is a wife who loses her temper with her husband because he’s playing with the kids after dinner instead of helping her with the dishes. She later tells herself that she’s a bad mom for wanting her husband to help her rather than play with the kids and a bad wife for getting so angry with her husband. Sometimes when we explode, we place the blame entirely on our shoulders and carry the weight of a label that isn’t rooted in truth. The lie is that we are incapable and unworthy of being a good mom or wife. The truth is that we are worthy, and we are capable, but need to seek God’s wisdom when it comes to controlling our tongue. It’s moving towards that soul integrity.
Another way an exploder can direct her deep regret is to blame others. Have you ever had a toddler who refused to walk in the grocery store? My youngest would do this. He had the most glorious rolls when he was younger which made it difficult for him to ride in the top of the cart, and he wasn’t always a fan of sitting in the carts that look like cars. He typically preferred to walk beside me and push the cart. But, there were some days he just decided he was done walking. Like, completely done, sit his butt on the floor, and not move completely done. I’d beg and plead for him to stand up or bribe him with the promise of a treat while becoming acutely aware that we were attracting an audience. In my frustration and embarrassment, I would pull him up and drag him by one arm behind me or hoist him up on one hip all the while reminding him that this was NOT appropriate behavior. He would typically respond by kicking and screaming as I struggled towards the check out. These meltdowns left me feeling so frustrated and defeated for the remainder of the day. I was convinced that calm trips to the store were a thing of my past and would never change as long as my son was with me. So often, we blame others for our explosive actions. Someone else is to blame for our hurtful words, harsh looks or rash actions. Someone else is to blame for us throwing our own tantrum and acting out of control. Where is the soul integrity in that?
So what can we do when we find ourselves in situations where we just want to explode? First, take a moment to pause and breathe. Sometimes it takes only a brief pause to regain control of our spiraling emotions. When my kids were younger, I always encouraged them to pause, take deep breaths, and count to ten (or twenty or one hundred) when they were feeling really upset. If that didn’t work, I’d encourage them to step back from the situation and take a quick time-out. I’ll do this for myself as well. Sometimes, I need to walk away from a situation where my emotions are out of control, and take a few moments to calm my thoughts. Scripture tells us,
Taking the time to pause before we respond helps us not only regain control over our spiraling emotions, but it gives us an opportunity to implement some wisdom. In the pause, we can submit our spiraling emotions to Jesus. In the pause, we can ask God for understanding and to help us see this situation through His eyes. In the pause, we can seek how He would have us respond. When you’re emotions are spiraling, give yourself a moment to calm down and seek His guidance in how you should respond.
Secondly, make the choice when your emotions start to spiral to maintain your self-control. Self-control is defined as the ability to control ones emotions or the expression of them in difficult situations. Scripture tells us:
“Like a city that is broken down and without walls [leaving it unprotected] is a man who has no self-control over his spirit [and sets himself up for trouble].”
Proverbs 25:28 (AMP)
Think about that for a moment. During biblical times, it was common for cities to have a wall surrounding them. Walls offered protection against enemies. A city without walls was open to the enemy and his attacks. It is the same for us. If we don’t maintain our self-control, we are opening ourselves up to the enemy. We can’t always choose the type of situations we find ourselves in, but we can choose whether we will let our rising emotions overtake us and direct our next steps. Paul reminds us in Timothy:
“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].”
2 Timothy 1:7 (AMP)
If you have made to choice to follow Christ, you have the power within you to maintain your self-control. Through Him, you can stand up against the emotions that surge and declare that the enemy is not welcome today.
Lastly, make the choice to respond rather than react. There is a difference between the two. Responses are driven by soul integrity, that honesty and wisdom found as we grow in our relationship with Christ. Reactions, on the other hand, are driven by the need to intentional hurt another person or prove another person wrong. My kids are big reactors. When one child is in conflict with another in our house, it is made clearly evident. Harsh words, death glares, and the occasional full blown tackle have been observed. And though it has been awhile since I’ve tackled someone, I too must admit that there have been times when I’ve chosen to react rather than respond. I have experienced situations when I wanted the other person to experience hurt or I wanted to prove to everyone that I was in the right. But, what does God’s Word say about all of this?
“Listen, open your ears, harness your desire to speak, and don’t get worked up into a rage so easily, my brothers and sisters. Human anger is a futile exercise that will never produce God’s kind of justice in this world.”
James 1:19-20 (VOICE)
“Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it. You wouldn’t think of just asking God for it, would you? And why not? Because you know you’d be asking for what you have no right to. You’re spoiled children, each wanting your own way.”
James 4:1-3 (MSG)
When it comes down to it, I’m just like my kids. I get mad when I don’t get my own way. I get mad when I don’t get what I want. I get mad when things don’t go my way. I get mad and react in ways that tear others down instead of building them up. But, is this what God desires for me? It’s not. His desire is that I would respond in ways that ultimately bring healing and encouragement to others, and that bring glory Him. That is His desire. How do we do this?
We start by making the choice to honor the offender. To honor someone is to show one respect regardless of whether it is deserved or not. When we are faced with difficult circumstances or in conflict with another person, it is important to remember that every person on this earth is one of God’s creations, His masterpieces. God loves and is in pursuit of each and every one of us. For that reason alone, all people deserve our respect. Now, we don’t have to agree with someone to show respect, and we don’t have to accept their actions as appropriate to show respect. We show respect by remembering that each person has value in God’s eyes. Matthew reminds us:
“This is what our Scriptures come to teach: in everything, in every circumstance, do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Matthew 7:12 (VOICE)
Honoring the offender is treating others as you would want to be treated. It’s showing respect even when it is not deserved, and it is remembering that each person is valued in God’s eyes.
Secondly, our responses should acknowledge the hurt, clarify our intentions, and be honest, but gentle about the issue at hand. It goes without being said that anytime we face difficult circumstances or are in conflict with another, hurt will be present. If left alone, this hurt will fester and grow into resentment and bitterness. I walked through a really difficult season with a dear friend. It wasn’t until we sat down to acknowledge the hurt we both felt, clarified our intentions behind our actions and words, and approached the conversation with gentle honesty that healing began. When in conflict with another, acknowledge the hurt present, clarify your intentions, and have the courage to honestly, but gently discuss the issue at hand.
Next, our responses must be “seasoned with salt.” Colossians says:
“Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”
Colossians 4:6 (NASB)
Colossians says that our words must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt. It doesn’t say only when we feel like, only on Tuesdays or only when we’re in church. It says always. And our words must be with grace, as though seasoned with salt. What does that mean?
In her devotional, “Sweet and Salty Speech, Karen Ehman shares that salt has many different purposes that can be applied to the words that come out of our mouths. First, salt preserves. Are your words improving the situation or keeping decay from happening? Secondly, salt is valuable. Are you words adding value to the conversation or are your words empty and worthless? Next, salt purifies and softens. Are the words you are choosing to use pure and truthful? Are your words soft and kind or harsh and hostile? Next, salt melts ice. Are your words phrased in a way to help melt an icy conversation? Is your speech bringing out the best in others? Lastly, salt prevents infection in a wound. Are your words healing? Are your words preventing further toxicity from spreading? Our words have tremendous power to encourage others, build them up and bring healing. But, they also have the power to discourage others, tear them down, and bring pain. The wrong amount of salt or using the wrong seasoning can ruin the soup. What words are you choosing to respond with? Are they encouraging healing or inflicting more pain? What types of words are you using with your children? What about your spouse or significant other? Are your words gentle and seasoned well?
Lastly, it’s important to take quiet time by yourself to reflect. Now, I know that sounds nearly impossible when you’re in the thick of raising little people, but it’s important. You need time to be still. Time to shut out distractions. Time to get quiet with God. Lysa Terkeurst says there are several things that happen when we are in the quiet. First, we become humble before God. I’ve learned that in many of the conflicts I’ve found myself in, I am partly to blame. Coming humbling before God, He can speak truth into my heart, show me where I was in the wrong, and the steps needed to make forward progress.
Secondly, in the quiet, we are reminded that our real enemy is not the other person. Ephesians tells us:
“Our fight is not against people on earth. We are fighting against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world’s darkness. We are fighting against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:12 (ERV)
When we are in the midst of difficult circumstances or in conflict with another, our vision can become clouded as to who the real enemy is. The real enemy is Satan, and he will do everything in his power to discourage you, to bring you down, and to raise people up against each other. In the quiet, we are reminded that there is a spiritual battle being fought all around us. The enemy is not your circumstances and the enemy is not the person you are in conflict with. Remember that.
Lastly, in the quiet, we are reminded that God is good, He is faithful, and He can be trusted. We may not understand the how and why behind the work of His hands, but we can trust His hands. Romans 8 says:
“We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan.”
Romans 8:28 (VOICE)
If you are a follower of Jesus, you can be confident that every circumstance you face, every conflict you’re in, every time you explode can ultimately bring something good and beautiful. Be encouraged today, sweet friend. God is always faithful.
Biblegateway. www.biblegateway.com. Accessed 15 Feb. 2021.
Ehman, Karen. “Sweet and Salty Speech.” Proverbs31. https://proverbs31.org/read/devotions/full-post/2017/02/07/sweet-and-salty-speech. Accessed 15 Feb. 2021.
Terkeurst, Lysa. Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions. Grand Rapids. Zondervan. 2012.